It’s lunch time in the office and well… It’s made me think this morning about the stigma of mental health. I’ve recently been off work with my ‘revelation’, unable to even form coherent thoughts, the thought of even stepping foot in work making me physically throw up. But another thought pervaded my fears even deeper – the thought that if I took time off work with my Depression, that people would laugh at me, think of me as weak, broken in some way, and I had heard from a friend that one colleague had even said ‘I wish i’d have thought of that – could have got two weeks off extra leave’.

So my fears had been truth. People do not realise what true Depression is, the feeling of total worthlessness, loss of self esteem and confidence to such an extent that you feel people would just laugh at you to look at you. The point that running and hiding is such a strong instinct that you fight it constantly in order to manage every day life.

On returning to work, I was terrified that this was what my manager was thinking, with the recession how it is at the moment, I was convinced I’d signed my own redundancy package – another thought running through my head – paranoia? To my relief my manager was very understanding, even taking into consideration the Doctor’s suggestion of light duties. Despite this, I still had a nagging doubt in the back of my head that all of this was because Employers HAVE to do this to save being sued… Again – paranoia?

The next few days were uneventful until I had to chair a meeting. I spent a long time talking myself into it – and as mentioned before I am very stubborn, and pointed out that I’d done this many times before and it was fine. So I pulled on my ‘mask’ and went for it. My manager commented afterwards that he was glad to see that I was better again. I was stunned – do people really think that getting better is such a quick process? Do they think I choose to be like this? The truth is I had felt a little better that I’d conquered another milestone,  but now there was another obstacle that I needed to overcome. The Stigma that I had just taken the time off because I felt like it.

I am quite an open person and had discussed my illness with close friends, and they had accepted me still as the person I am, no different, just now there was an explanation for my over-worry, paranoia, constant need for reassurance etc etc The discussions I had were quite upsetting in some cases. A Male friend of mine opened up to me and explained that he was also Depressed, but he had had to keep it very quiet as people ridiculed him constantly for it. It appeared Men would employ ‘banter’ and ‘teasing’ and in some cases downright horrible things to say – he had even experienced similar attitudes from his family.

It seems to be Depressed and Male is twice the experience socially as it is to be Depressed and Female. But then I came to thinking that this was most likely societal anyway – I mean, Women are supposed to be more emotional aren’t they? Men aren’t supposed to feel a thing because feeling = weakness. Weakness = femininity. There could be so many hypotheses I could put forward at this point, but essentially, I want people to think – to realise, despite the Stigma of the label, Depressed people are people nevertheless, and despite a sexual difference, we are all human beings.

Essentially, I believe that a Depressed person should be treated with the respect they want and deserve, both in their every day life and in the work life. Why aren’t managers trained to spot the tell tale signs? I have personally been told by my manager that I don’t seem to care or be bothered by anything – just a few months after starting my first round of medication, of which he had been made aware. I had also made him aware that certain side effects and affects on my mood such as this would take place.

I did wonder if the recession had an affect on ‘corporate caring’… In times of  boom and less stress for all, would it be easier for managers to ‘care’ about their staff as they are less stressed? But along comes the recession where everyone is stressed, and those who are pushed beyond their limits are then considered ‘weak’, ‘slackers’, ‘unfit for the job’. If Depression is more prevalent than realised in today’s society, why are managers not trained to look for the signs so they do not push their employees to the breaking point?

The Stigma of Mental Health Issues needs to be stamped out, and the only way this can possibly be done is though education. Mental Health Issues need to lose the stigma that everyone who is ill is either pretending, boring, sad, a killer or has tourettes. Mental Health Issues come in a large variety of classifications, and many of these can co-exist with a normal life style. I for one am learning to embrace my illness as it is 100% part of me, it’s made me who I am today. I have an open mind, and I love nothing more than to hear other people’s opinions and thoughts, to help them when they are down or distressed, or to lend a listening ear when excited and happy. I have been told I am unique for my ability to pull out people’s deepest darkest secrets and help them through tough times – and I am convinced that if I wasn’t afflicted with the emotions that Depression gives me, that I would not be able to do this.

So – where do we go from here? There’s not a lot one person can do on their own, but until I can figure out how awareness can be raised, I shall continue to blog – and hopefully reach and help the best I can.